Brazilian retires five minutes before the end while leading the race
René Rast moves up from 20th on the grid to sixth
Customer team Envision Virgin Racing scores points with both cars
The third round of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship in Rome (Italy) was five minutes too long for Lucas di Grassi: leading the race and already eyeing victory, the Brazilian from the Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler team came to a stop without drive three laps from the finish. His teammate René Rast moved up from 20th on the grid to sixth.
“Our car is fantastic,” said Lucas di Grassi ahead of the first European weekend of the new Formula E season. The Audi factory driver underlined his statement by setting the fastest time in the first free practice session and fourth place on the grid. In the spectacular E-Prix on the redesigned circuit in the Italian capital, the entire field remained close together.
Di Grassi took the lead early on and kept the upper hand in numerous fierce battles. The deserved victory was within his grasp, but the Brazilian suddenly slowed down and had to park his Audi e-tron FE07 with only five minutes remaining.
“A mechanical problem so close to the end of the race is tough,” said di Grassi. “For the mechanics, for the engineers and for me. We had the speed to win the race today. I was leading the race for most of the time and had great overtakes. We will work hard to come back even stronger tomorrow.”
Teammate René Rast already hurt his chance for a podium in qualifying. After making slight contact with a wall, the German was unable to complete his timed lap. With a faultless race, the three-time DTM champion fought his way up into the points.
“When you start from 20th on the grid, you have to be happy with sixth place,” said Rast, who is also sixth in the overall Formula E drivers’ standings. “It was a cool race, I had a lot of fun, the car was fast. Tomorrow we have to be better in qualifying, then we’ll fight for the podium.”
“René drove a clever race, his crew supported him perfectly with the right strategy,” said Team Principal Allan McNish. “We are happy about that, but the fact that we missed a victory so narrowly today hurts a lot. Lucas had a fantastic fight at the front with Jean-Eric Vergne and was leading the race with five minutes to go. Hearing the message over the radio that he had no drive was extremely hard for all of us. We will lick our wounds tonight, but tomorrow we’ll be back.”
On Sunday, more world championship points will be awarded in Formula E: The fourth race of the season starts at 1 PM CEST. SAT.1 will be broadcasting live from 12:30 PM CEST. All of the international broadcasters, including broadcast times, can be found online at www.fiaformulae.com.
Customer team Envision Virgin Racing scored points with both of its Audi e-tron FE07 cars on Saturday. Robin Frijns finished fourth, Nick Cassidy tenth.